Theater curtain to rise again at the Memorial Hall Theatre on - WFLA News Channel 8

Theater curtain to rise again at the Memorial Hall Theatre on the VA campus

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The Memorial Hall Theatre on the Veterans Affairs campus in Johnson City was a building of marvel when first built in 1904, but flash forward almost 110 years and age has taken it's toll on the theatre.

"Currently we have it closed because we want to make some upgrades to the building," said Kevin Milligan, Chief Engineer at the VA center.

The fire alarms and sprinkler systems are out of date, the building does not comply with American Disability Association codes, and water damage over the years have left it almost unusable.  Despite all of that, the overall factor in why the theatre is closed is funding.

"Because this is a different historical asset that is not typical for a VA hospital, we can't really use VA medical funds to do the repairs," said Millligan.

A year ago the entire VA campus became a National Historic Landmark promoting a push to rejuvenate the theatre.

"We have different opportunities to go look at grants and things associated with historic assets now," said Milligan.

Milligan says the VA is currently working with architects and designers to determine the cost to update the theatre.  Milligan says the number one goal is to update the theatre without affecting the original historic design.

"It's right here in the city, its a beautiful spot and we would love to use it," said Joann Hodge, owner of Studio Dance.

Hodge says her studio used to perform recitals at Memorial Hall Theatre until it was closed to the public.

"The last recital or show that I held there was probably about two years ago in the fall," said Hodge.

Hodge says now it's difficult for her to find a place for her student performances.

"The local schools are not real easy to deal with for dancing schools," said Hodge.

Hodge says the only other facilities that her studio could perform in are at ETSU which are just as hard to book.

"It doesn't leave me a whole lot of options.  Right now I hold my recitals at Unicoi County High School.  I mean it's been here, it's standing, it just needs a little bit of help. you know why cant we use it?" said Hodge.

Officials at the VA say it will take a year to 18 months to update the theatre.  Hodge says she hopes that's true, so lights can once again shine center stage on her dancers.

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